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Renew Yourself on Vacation

It’s not always easy to schedule a vacation, especially if your work responsibilities have multiplied in recent months.
But breaking away from the office – and your BlackBerry –from time to time is essential if you want to maintain your energy and perform at your peak, says physician Matthew Edlund, author of The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone is Not Enough, and director of the Center for Circadian Medicine in Sarasota, Fla.

“When people pace themselves, they get a lot more done,” he says. “If you don’t take breaks, you make mistakes. You can’t turn the human being into a machine.”

Want to make sure you return to work renewed after your next vacation? Here are some tips.

Commit to taking a break. Tell yourself, “I’m really going on vacation. This is a chance for me to rebuild and restore my mind and body – and I’m really going to use it,” advises Dr. Edlund.

Don’t overschedule yourself. Many people come back from a vacation more tired than when they left because they treat it like a job, says Dr. Edlund. Instead of creating a list of things to do – like seeing 16 castles in two cities or mastering yoga, pilates and racquetball over four days – allow yourself time to enjoy the place where you are staying in a more spontaneous way. “You don’t want to race through your day,” he says. Give yourself the breathing room to experience “flow,” where you are so completely engrossed in what you are doing that you don’t notice the time, he suggests.

Leave your goals at the office. Vacations are about enjoying experiences that you’ll remember for a lifetime. If you are staying at a spa, pay attention to how you feel when you are getting treatments, instead of turning your visit into a project by saying “I’m going to lose X number of pounds while I’m here,” advises Dr. Edlund.

Get in touch with your natural sleep cycles. Many people are so sleep deprived that they don’t remember how good it feels to be rested, says Dr. Edlund. A vacation can be a great time to restore yourself by taking naps. It can also give you the freedom to get in touch with your natural sleep cycles, by going to bed when you are tired and waking up when you’re rested. “There’s a very different clock for different people,” he says.

Be social. Allow time for relaxed conversations with your traveling companions, and chatting with new acquaintances – which can renew your zest for life in unexpected ways. “A large part of the spa experience is meeting interesting people you can connect with,” says Dr. Edlund.

Prolong the positive effects. Once you’re back at work, you can return to the relaxed state you experienced while, say, getting a massage with a simple exercise known as paradoxical relaxation. Sit down, close your eyes, and focus all of your attention on a spot on your body that feels tense. Your body will completely relax as your focus goes to that one point, where the tension will soon dissipate. “You can do it anywhere, any time,” Dr. Edlund says.


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